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A Fixing

It’s warm in December and I wake up to crows cawing with a ferocity I’m inexplicably used to. Little worm heads poke out of my strawberries that were never good enough to eat to begin with, and the rat that lives in the kitchen now has a partner called Martha and they seem very happy.

It’s terribly warm this December and the sweat that has settled into my hair seeps down to my scalp and begins to smell like the rot of the day that gets caught easily in fingernails, but can’t be completely scratched out. And who even invited the houseflies? Look at them, settling themselves down casually on yesterday’s muck before launching on today’s lunch.

It seem inevitable, that the death of the calendar year come with some sort of gloom. One must, however, celebrate the survival of it all. All the baseless worry and the baseless hope.

It starts with the cupboard. A lot of people say it starts with the bed; it ideally should start with the bed. But for me, it always starts with the cupboard. It starts with getting out all I have and arranging it into neat folded piles – the dresses, the bottoms, the never-once-worns. Once in a while I shuffle their assigned places in the cupboard. One never knows what works till one has tried it all. Fixing the disheveled heap of cloth and cloth and cloth, because it’s easier to fix than whatever it is that really needs fixing. Hanging the chiffons and georgettes because they unfold too easy, keeping the belts away because clothes don’t slide down any longer, making a mental note to fix this button, that hook, those straps because you’re now with new people in a new world and what may be old to the old people in the old world is still new here, if you just fix this button, that hook, those straps.

I find the patchwork shirt I wore the first time he found out I was crazy. I find the black skirt I wore the first time I found out he was. The shirt I failed an interview in. The sari I never wore to the wedding I couldn’t get myself to attend. All the cloth of all the clothes in all my lives except this one, lying there awaiting new meaning from the new year. If only it was easier to forget why what must end even began.

It always starts with the cupboard, the fixing. Easier to discard, easier to mend, what must be. Easier to discard than mend, which is where it gets complex. With humans too though, much more. Easier to discard than mend, is where it gets complex.

I pick up the old green dress with a hole in the hem from a cigarette burn three years ago. I bring out my sewing kit and sit cross legged with the dress in my lap, ready for the fixing. The needle is threaded with the remains of the green (olive green, not the bottle green of the dress) thread I have, and pushed in from back to front, repeatedly, till a shoddy job of fixing is done. It takes a short five minutes, and if one were to look from afar, one would never spot the gaping wound and the scab I’ve crafted on it.

Imagine now, fixing a soul. Finding the hole, feeling it out, understanding the reason behind it. Then taking the time to find the thread of the exact colour and threading it onto the needle that’ll hurt least. Having the strength to push it in from back to front as the soul winces in pain while it knows it’s for the best. Ensuring you’re doing a stellar job of fixing so that the soul itself can’t find the wound again if it looked. You can spend a year, you can spend a lifetime, and at the end of the day you’ll still question yourself on who it was who told you that you had the right to go about fixing souls, deciding what’s broken from your limited perspective.

That is why it always starts with the cupboard.
It takes an afternoon.

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Summum Bonum

Today, like everyday, I woke up thinking about you.

But it’s raining today, so I’ll tell you about it.

It was a hot day, the temperature was predicted to hit a high of 41 degrees celsius and yet, I swear, at about 3.00 pm it hit 43. The elderly in the house had swapped their morning tea for lime juice.  The family dog was sitting quietly in the shade and lapping up water from his steel bowl. Crows circled the trees that posed as regular haunts for peacocks that frequent this part of Delhi. Even mangoes that fell from the mango trees had fallen too early, not because they were ripe, but because the scorching heat had sucked the strength from its branches so that they couldn’t hold on to the fruit any longer.

I woke up to the sound of the cleaner using the hard brush broom to sweep up all the dead leaves from our verandah. They crunched and scratched as they moved from the grass to the earth, smooth but parched from the summer it wasn’t prepared to face. Dust and dead leaves, a golden yellow heap in one corner of the house.

I was dreaming of you I think, when I woke up. I’m not sure what the contents of the dream were, but you did feature in it; you were probably the star. Probably, yes, because you were iridescent. Even in my sleep my subconscious had decided to focus the lens on your face and the world around you was just a disappointing backdrop, that failed, and how, to live up to the foreground. I looked at you and gulped – you looked like a dark cloud in a desert. You could bring rain and you could bring a storm and I’d take what I got because you were iridescent and I couldn’t look away.

I was dreaming of you when I woke up to the crunching and scratching of brown leaves on brown grass. We ate melon for breakfast, and took tea without milk, and then went up to the roof to pour water over every square inch of it. Grandpa says it cools the house below, but I think he just likes going up there to enjoy a couple of minutes of silence in the one place in his house where Grandma can’t reach – or at least where her voice can’t reach. He loves her, but it’s a hot day, hotter than predicted, and therefore hotter than expected, and even the petals of the purple summer flowers are allowed to protest in silence with their browning edges, so why can’t Grandpa.

It’s the hottest 29th of April in 29 years and the news channels have all sorts of things to say about it. The opposition is blaming the ruling party and the church is blaming science and Grandma is blaming Grandpa, and in the window of the house next door, the toddler shrieks with delight to commemorate her first spoonful of mashed unripe mango.

I sit in the master bedroom and join Usha, the help, as we fan my grandparents with yesterday’s newspapers (seventy odd years back the only electric fan in the room was thoughtlessly installed in the north west corner, a corner now full of pictures of the children who left the city when the summers began to get too hot). We fan them as Grandma talks of how things were back in their day, how the summers actually brought everyone together in those days in Srinagar, when they’d pluck apples out of trees from their backyards and play house in their mother’s dupattas. The younger generations, she says, forget to give thanks for the little things.

I smile and look away, silently disagreeing, because today, like everyday, I woke up thinking about you and with it came a wave of happiness. I had sighed, more than once, as I tossed about in bed, dodging the morning light that filtered through the blinds so I could go back to sleep and see your face again. I had sighed and I had smiled and I refuse to believe that in that moment I hadn’t given thanks for the little things. For the silly nicknames and the imminent laughter, for the words in verse and the words in prose, and even the words that we never write. For the space on your bookshelf, for the dim yellow-light lamp, for the movies we’ll never finish and the books we’ll never start and the kisses aimed at foreheads and noses and chins.

And all of a sudden it began to rain. At first we just heard the light pitter patter on the terracotta that capped the verandah, but it slowly grew stronger and louder, accompanied by thunder and lightening and shrieks from the toddler, once again rejoicing, her arms and hair and toes splattered with mango pulp (because her mother had warned her the bowl should be clean when she’s done).

A cool breeze blew into the house and the golden yellow heap of dust and dead leaves soared into the air and back onto the lawn. Inside the house, Grandma pecked Grandpa on his cheek and Usha cleared the newspapers and the family dog came running to my feet, trying to hide from the thunder and the lightening. And with all this, and everything else, I thought of you, just the way I do everyday. I thought of you and the little things.

And it rained today, so I thought you should know.

It’s Almost The End Of The Year

“I have shed my skin so many times.
The graveyards must be full of all the people I used to be”

It’s almost the end of the year. Can you feel it yet?

The tip of my nose goes pink sometimes and my eyebrows are so frozen I can’t even be surprised. Literally. Everyone’s getting their red and shimmer out. Buble’s singing out of every nook and cranny, his fondue voice making you mentally sway as you make your way to yet another get-together. Every house has a Christmas tree outside, its plastic branches decorated with leftover disco balls and little figurines collected by children too young to have memories. Everyone’s slacking just a bit more at work; eating just a bit more dessert, drinking just a bit more wine, feeling just a bit more in love or just a whole lot more alone. It’s almost the end of the year. Can you feel it yet?

It’s nearly time to decide who the new you will be. Walls are coming down and being built everywhere; some more quietly than others. People are talking to people, eager to rewrite beginnings or endings, looking for peace of mind like it was promised. We sit with our bundles of painful memories, not letting them roll out of our eyes and onto our cheeks, ready to learn from them and dispose them off like soiled items, only to realize that we barely even remember the things we never thought we’d forget. As someone famously said, the future is really that forgiving. Can you feel it yet?

There’s suddenly more cookies and rum cake and adipose tissue in life than there is intent. We all have these plan-less goals for ourselves, neatly tucked away in corners of our subservient minds, waiting for a fresh calendar to fix ourselves top down because right now we’re too busy treating our hearts as metaphors. When’s the last time you actually put your hand to your chest and felt your heartbeat? It’s a powerful thing. It makes you so aware of every passing second, so awake to the urgency of accomplishment. You begin to wonder what it was that made you think you had time. Can you feel it yet?

You think back to the times you used to think back to those moments. From another time, another place. It doesn’t make you smile and it doesn’t make you sad. It just makes you look away now. Love left your body, momentarily, yet long enough for you to realize that you need to leave some people behind in this year. We’ve spent too much time decorating our lives with leftover disco balls and little figurines, collected over time in more ways than one, as day by day we grow a bit more envious of those children too young to have memories. Can you feel it yet?

It’s almost the end of the year and you’re praying that by the end of the next you’ll have that job. That waistline. That girl. It’s what you prayed for the last year and the year before last. It’s what you’ll pray for the next year and the year after that. A different job. A smaller waistline. Another girl. Another cliché.

This year, I want to read a bucket list through. I want to really understand the colour purple. I want to cook pad thai and a mean little key lime pie. I want to swim in a new sea. I want to be an art parasite. I want to be everyone I used to be and more. There’s just so much room, now that it’s empty. I want to be the people I wanted to be with, because I always believed in forever.

I wish all of you peace and so much love. I hope you bask in happy vibes and drink mellow dreams and if you must break, I pray his kisses gave you butterflies as they came and strong art as they left.

Zen. 2015.

QUESTIONS THAT MATTER

They asked me where I came from
I said I wasn’t sure
they asked again, it mattered I think
Where I was bred and born

They asked me whom I pray to
I said I didn’t pray;
They persisted for it worried them
whom I believe turns night to day

They enquired about my schooling
and the wages I collect
I said I studied experiences
and wrote of love and regret

I know where I belong, I think
My faith lies in good vibes
I know the thoughts I pen down
touch people till they smile

And you could have a God
and be surrounded with riches too;
but if you were truly happy
mine wouldn’t matter to you